It’s right around Thanksgiving when games in the NFL start to get more intense. Each team has played the majority of their schedule at this point, and the chances to remain in contention for one of the seven playoff spots in each conference start to dwindle.
With Week 11 in the books, we’ll take a closer look at three main takeaways from the weekend’s games.
The biggest game of the weekend featured two teams who appeared to be legitimate contenders in the NFC. The Minnesota Vikings had just pulled out an impressive win on the road against the Buffalo Bills, and were hoping to add to their resume by beating another respectable team in the Dallas Cowboys.
Simply put, the Vikings were manhandled from the opening kickoff through the end of the game. Quarterback Kirk Cousins was under siege all day, and could not get the ball to Justin Jefferson and his other playmakers. On defense, Minnesota had no answers for the explosive Tony Pollard, who ran circles around them in the rushing and receiving game.
The Vikings are still 8-2 and in a strong position within the conference, but the embarrassing 37 point loss will not help fans believe that they are a legitimate threat to make a Super Bowl run.
While many fans were patting the backs of the Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants for turning the NFC East into one of the league’s best divisions, a funny thing happened. The Washington Commanders, who were left for dead, starting to band together and play inspired football in the last few weeks.
The Commanders have searched far and wide in hopes of finding a legitimate starting quarterback to complete their otherwise talented roster, but the most viable answer may have been under their nose all along. Taylor Heinicke hasn’t exactly lit up the scoreboard since he’s taken over for Carson Wentz, but the team seems to play harder when he’s in the lineup. There’s evidence of this dating back to Heinicke’s start in the 2021 NFL playoffs against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Head coach Ron Rivera isn’t going to mess with the formula, as he confirmed Heinicke is the starter as long as he continues to play well.
Can’t Count Out Kelce
With the loss of all world speed receiver Tyreek Hill, the adjustment the Kansas City Chiefs would make this year was a main storyline. Without a player to consistently threaten the back end of a defense, the team would need to spread the ball around and scheme around a 33 year-old tight end who would be the focal point of the attack.
Despite his age and perceived wear and tear, Travis Kelce continues to produce at an elite level, even when teams know what’s coming. His performance on Sunday night against the Los Angeles Chargers emphatically confirmed this, as he scored three touchdowns en route to their victory.
The game reminded us that he’s still one of the most dangerous mismatches in the NFL, as he’s too athletic to be covered by a traditional linebacker, and too big to be guarded by a defensive back.